David Jamieson: Government must invest in our West Midlands Police
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson talks about the huge pressure police are under and calls for more funding from the Government
The results of the Express and Star’s crime survey are not a surprise.
They highlight the dissatisfaction the public currently have in policing.
At every public meeting I attend, the public are giving me a similar message – that our police are underfunded.
The public are proud of the police and the work officers, staff and PCSOs do, but are angry at the lack of resources they are being given to do their job.
- Express & Star Crime Survey results revealed: Public anger laid bare in findings
Government politicians have to be honest with the public and admit where the police are not meeting public expectations.
The police are under huge pressure. The demands placed upon forces are higher than ever. Police are now dealing with crimes that simply weren’t on the radar a decade ago, such as cyber crime, and the threat of terrorism, that has been around for decades is now more acute than ever.
In the West Midlands, our young population, combined with areas of high deprivation has a real impact on the amount and seriousness of crimes we face. The leafier areas of the country don’t have the same pressures, but have had lower levels of cuts.
The West Midlands has been hit harder than anywhere else by government cutbacks, leaving me with a smaller budget to pass on to the police to deal with those challenges. I don’t for one second think we can’t do anything about it, but we have to be honest about our limitations. With 2,000 fewer officers, the thin blue line has begun to crack.
We have had to prioritise. This is not an easy process and leaves people rightly disappointed when the response from the police no longer meets their expectations. When a crime happens to someone it is rightly felt as the most important thing in their lives at that moment. It is therefore disappointing that we can’t always deal with it in the way that they expect.
This survey clearly shows what we have known for some time that more investment is needed in policing and in West Midlands Police in particular.
The government needs to be honest with the public and either fund the police properly, or level with them that the police won’t be able to do everything that is expected of them currently. We have faced cuts of £145 million since 2010, and despite a relentless efficiency drive have lost over 2,000 officers.
It is my job to set the forces priorities and ensure value for money from each pound spent. The independent policing inspectorate rates West Midlands Police as being one of the most efficient forces in the country. I am proud of that, but think there is more to do. That is why we are cutting down on bureaucracy and have invested in technology so officers can spend more time on the beat, instead of having to keep going back to police buildings to input information.
I have invested those efficiencies back into policing and increased recruitment to slow the loss of officers and staff. However, I am still unable to increase recruitment to levels I think we need to police the West Midlands.
That means that we will continue to have to make difficult decisions for the foreseeable future. The closure of police stations is just one of them. I have had to choose between police officers and buildings. By closing buildings, I have protected 100 officer posts. In years gone by it was possible to protect both.
Either the government needs to increase the funding it gives to forces like the West Midlands, or be honest and say that we can’t do everything. I am being honest with the public, the government need to be too.
I very much hope the government does the right thing and increases funding for our force. It is an issue I have consistently campaigned on and raised at the highest levels of government. It is also clear that the public agree with me on this issue too.
I hope the government takes note of this survey like I have and properly fund the police, so we can deliver the service the public expect.